When to say “No” to a Prospective Client

Wait! What? Say no to a prospective client? Seems like a radically crazy idea, particularly for those with new or struggling businesses.

Consider this.

Two clients. Client A is going to pay you your going rate of $1500 to do a presentation at their company’s leadership meeting. Client B is a pro bono case, but you would be presenting at a conference that many Fortune 500 leaders attend. Both events are at the same time so you can only choose one. What do you do?

Okay, so this one is kind of a no brainer, but there are cases where the impact may not be so obvious yet is still very profound. Often, these scenarios are about foregoing immediate financial benefits and letting go of what doesn’t serve you in favor of a bigger pay off down the road.

Here are 3 of those very scenarios.

Make a little time for respect

Let’s lovingly call them “Client Littles”. You know the ones. You haven’t even taken them on as a client yet and they’re already cancelling at the last minute, expecting you to drop everything else you’re doing to talk to them immediately or questioning how long a project would take when you’re discussing price. Basically, the business version of running around yelling the sky is falling! Of course, there are times when these scenarios are unavoidable. Life happens! But when a prospective client raises red flags of being a chronic Client Little, RUN! It’s just not worth the toll on your body from stress or the possibility of losing ideal clients because you can’t offer your best.

Value your values

With any company, one of the first orders of business is to know what it stands for and how that serves clients. Don’t waste time or energy doing something that doesn’t jive with what the company stands for. Instead, work with clients that have the similar visions so they get the benefit of your best work and you get the benefit of another opportunity to share what your company values. Eventually, people will start searching you out because they know and like what they have come to expect from you.

Not in your wheelhouse

If a project comes your way you haven’t done before, check your gut, it might make sense to pass if it doesn’t match a skillset you’ve developed yet. It’s more detrimental to have bad work out there than to say no. Also, don’t try to squeeze more spokes onto a full wheel. Pass on the new client if you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel of work you already have. At the very least, be transparent in laying out the reality that you won’t be able to get to them for an extended amount of time. You’ll be building trust, an invaluable commodity when it comes to word of mouth.

Why is the choice to let go so hard? Simply put, there’s a lot of faith needed for these scenarios because there’s no quantifiable way to know what extra income you’ve earned or saved by passing on a client. It all relies on you knowing that you and your company are worth taking a breath when a new client shows up on your door to make sure it’s a good fit.

Have there been times when you were thankful you passed on a new client or are there other scenarios not mentioned that you would? Leave a comment below.

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